Olivia Rodrigo has addressed those plagiarism rumours
Olivia Rodrigo’s runaway success with 2021’s Sour, rendering her the year’s unequivocal breakout star, has lead many to link her success to the sounds of other people. The reason we’re bopping so hard to “Good 4 U”? It’s indebted to Paramore’s “Misery Business”, apparently. The bridge on “Deja Vu”? A nod to Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer”. Be it plagiarism or homage, it seems like artists (or at least the major label machines behind them) have been trying to get a slice of the Olivia Rodrigo pie, snagging songwriting credits on tracks it appears they didn’t directly work on. Now, for the first time, Olivia has spoken about it.
As of July 2021, “Deja Vu” officially credits Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and St Vincent as co-writers. As Rolling Stone first reported, the track - which served as the much-hyped follow-up to Olivia’s Number 1 debut hit “Drivers License” - and its metadata have been updated on streaming services Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music. Taylor, Jack and St. Vincent now sit alongside Olivia and her frequent producer Dan Nigro in the credits.
According to Genius, the accreditation comes from an interpolation of the melody to “Cruel Summer”, a fan favourite track from Taylor’s 2019 Lover album, which Olivia herself referenced as a direct inspiration to “Deja Vu.” Taylor is also credited elsewhere on Sour on the track “1 step forward, 3 steps back”, which directly samples the melody from Reputation’s closing track “New Years Day”.
A month later, Hayley Williams and Josh Farro of Paramore were added to the writing credits of “Good 4 U”, with an insider source telling Variety this was due to an interpolation from “Misery Business” being featured on the song. The same month she politely shut down a question about Courtney Love, who claimed some of the Sour artwork paid a little too direct homage to her own work with Hole, by gushing about how big of a fan she is.
In an interview with Teen Vogue with writer P. Claire Dodson, Olivia initially skirted the question about the changing credits on Sour: “It’s tricky,” she said. “Writing songs about how I feel has always been easy and fun for me, and I think the business side of music has been something I’ve had a harder time learning., I’ve been sort of growing through that this year, but I’ve just been trying to remember that I write songs because I love them. I feel lucky I get to do that and be a songwriter and a performer for a living. …. At the end of the day, I feel it doesn’t have too much to do with me.”
She later had another conversation with Dodson to clarify her thoughts on the matter. “I think it’s disappointing to see people take things out of context and discredit any young woman’s work, but at the end of the day I’m just really proud and happy to say that my job is being a songwriter,” she said. “All music is inspired by each other. Obviously, I write all of my lyrics from my heart and my life first. I came up with the lyrics and the melody for ‘good 4 u’ one morning in the shower.”
She added: “What’s so beautiful about music is that it can be so inspired by music that’s come out in the past. Every single artist is inspired by artists who have come before them. It’s sort of a fun, beautiful sharing process. Nothing in music is ever new. There’s four chords in every song. That’s the fun part — trying to make that your own.”
She makes a good point. The line between inspiration and straight-up theft is paper thin when it comes to how songs sound. If anything, it’s merely a sign of Olivia Rodrigo’s power that megawatt stars are chiming up to point out that they influenced her. Meanwhile, Sour continues to sell shedloads of copies every week, barely budging from the global top 10. Stay winning, legend!